International Film Round-Up
When Bong Joon-ho won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, he opened his speech with this gem:
Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.
Wise words indeed.
Many of cinemas’ finest moments aren’t in English, so it’s fantastic to see the International market’s growth of the last few years.
So, in this spirit; here are five titles that I recommend you check out.
All are outstanding, and represent the best of International film.
Pain & Glory (Spain)
Pedro Almodóvar’s 21st feature and his first since 2016’s excellent Julieta, Pain and Glory finds the celebrated Spanish director in a contemplative and reflective mood.
Starring long-time collaborative partner Antonio Banderas, the film focuses on ageing director Salvador Mallo as he navigates creative, physical, and existential crises.
Banderas is in top form in what many are calling a career-best performance. Very much worthy of his Best Actor win at Cannes and Oscar nomination for the same, those only familiar with his roles as brawny action heroes (and a certain sword-wielding CGI cat) are in for a welcome surprise.
The supporting cast, comprised of Penelope Cruz, Julieta Serrano, and Leonardo Sbaraglia, is just as impressive, and Alberto Iglesias’ unsettling and melancholic score complements it all perfectly.
A poignant look at growing older and how we come to terms with ourselves, Pain and Glory is a career-best work from the much-celebrated director.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (France)
Portrait of a Lady on Fire has received a lot of praise for its visual style, and, with its sumptuous cinematography and stark set design, it’s easy to see why.
But it’s not just lovely to look at. A bittersweet romance about two star-crossed lovers, this period piece stays with you long after the credits have rolled.
Taking place in 18th century France, the film tells the story of Marianne, a young painter hired to paint Eloise’s portrait for her upcoming wedding.
However, because she’s a reluctant bride, Eloise is unwilling to commit herself to canvas, so Marianne is forced to paint her in secret. Soon enough, the artist falls for her subject.
As aesthetically pleasing as it is emotionally devastating, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is as David Ehrlich writes in his Indiewire review, “as perfect a film as any to have premiered this year.”
Parasite (South Korea)
Words like “masterpiece” get thrown around a lot, but it seems like the right one to use when describing Parasite.
Funny, unpredictable, thrilling, and moving while also providing a razor-sharp social commentary, this particular film merits the lavish praise that’s come it is way.
Recipient of the Palme D’Or (and an eight-minute standing ovation) at Cannes, it is also, as I’m sure you know, the first non-English film to win the Best Picture Oscar.
Hopefully the first of many.
It’s also had great success at the box office. Bringing in a worldwide total of $266.9 million it has, with ten million-plus admissions, also been seen by more than a fifth of its native South Korea’s population.
About two families at opposite ends of the class spectrum, the film centres around the impoverished Kims and the affluent Parks, and the twisted relationship that develops between them.
I’m going to leave it there though, because the less you know before diving in, the better. I strongly suggest you just do the sensible thing and watch it.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (Germany)
When I think of war films on the big screen, adult-only ones like Full Metal Jacket, Saving Private Ryan, Dunkirk, and 1917 come to mind.
However, there are others, like Grave of the Fireflies and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, that portray the problematic subject in a way that’s suitable for younger viewers.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, a German film based on the 1974 book of the same name, does this too – and quite brilliantly.
Told through the perspective of 9-year old Jewish girl Anna (a pitch-perfect performance from Riva Krymalowski), it tells the story of her and her family’s escape from Berlin, and subsequent experience as refugees.
This is an excellent adaptation. Tactful in its portrayal while never talking down to its younger audience, it’s a moving watch, and a powerful reminder of the devastating consequences of war.
Hirokazu Koreeda’s Shoplifters was one of the most highly acclaimed films of 2018, garnering critical praise and winning that year’s Palme d’Or.
The film is about a group of outsiders who engage in petty theft to make ends meet.
After one particular shoplifting run, two members of the gang, Osamu and his son Shota, come across a homeless girl in the cold who they decide to take in. They’re all quite content together – that is, until, an unforeseen incident tests the bonds that unite them.
Shoplifters is a touching and thought-provoking film.
It reminded me of the great Ken Loach in how it empathises with those who’ve fallen into poverty, and in the naturalistic, documentary-like way it depicts these lives onscreen.
Critic Robbie Collin nailed it when he calls it, in this review for the Telegraph, “compassionate, socially conscious filmmaking… that steals and snatches your heart”.
It sure does.
Written by Conor Regan, Senior Content Acquisition Executive.
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